|Type||Handheld game console/PDA|
|Release date||November 1, 2003|
|Discontinued||July 31, 2005|
|Operating system||Palm OS|
|CPU||Motorola i.MX-1 ARM9 processor @ 200 MHz|
|Memory||10 MB dedicated to the System Dynamic RAM|
|Storage||32 MB (Zodiac 1)|
128 MB (Zodiac 2)
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Infrared, Bluetooth, USB 2.0|
|Best-selling game||Warfare Incorporated|
The Tapwave Zodiac is a mobile entertainment console. Tapwave announced the system in May 2003 and began shipping in October of that same year. The Zodiac was designed to be a high-performance mobile entertainment system centered on video games, music, photos, and video for 18- to 34-year-old gamers and technology enthusiasts. By running an enhanced version of the Palm Operating System (5.2T), Zodiac also provided access to Palm's personal information management software and many other applications from the Palm developer community. The company was based in Mountain View, California.
The Zodiac console was initially available in two models, Zodiac 1 (32MB) for US$299, and Zodiac 2 (128MB) for US$399. Some of the game titles for the product included Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (Activision); Mototrax (Activision); SpyHunter (Midway); Madden NFL 2005 (EA/MDM); Doom II (id Software); Golden Axe III and Altered Beast (Sega); Warfare Incorporated (Handmark); and Duke Nukem Mobile (3D Realms/MachineWorks).
Due to insufficient funding and strong competitive pressure from the PlayStation Portable (PSP) from Sony (which was pre-announced at E3 on May 16, 2003, and shipped in North America on March 24, 2005), and the DS from Nintendo (released on November 21, 2004), Tapwave sold the company to an undisclosed multibillion-dollar corporation in Asia in July 2005.
The Zodiac console garnered strong product reviews and received many industry awards including Popular Science's Best of What's New Award, Stuff magazine's Top 10 Gadgets of the Year, Wired magazine's Fetish Award, CNET's Editor's Choice Award, PC World's 2004 Next Gear Innovations Award; PC Magazine's 1st Place Last Gadget Standing at CES; Handheld Computing magazine's Most Innovative PDA of 2003; Time magazine Best Gear of 2003; and the Business Week Best Products of 2003.
Music, images, and video
An MP3 music player is included in the system's applications, and allows the creation of custom playlists using drag-and-dropping of files. MP3 music files can be played from either SD slot, or the internal memory of the device. MP3 files can also be used as alarms, along with conventional Palm OS alarms.
Photos (JPEG or PNG format) could be downloaded to the device using the Palm Desktop software or loaded onto SD cards, and could be shared and made into a slideshow (with background music) on the device.
The bundled video player on the device, Kinoma, would only play videos in a proprietary format, converted using the Kinoma Producer software (which supported conversion of MPEG1, MPEG4, QuickTime, AVI and DivX). The software however was limited in its conversion abilities, enticing users to pay for the full version. It has been suggested that this difficulty in converting video for the device diminished the Zodiac's success. Several aftermarket DivX and XviD players have been developed (such as the TCPMP), and, at the time of bankruptcy, Tapwave were working on an update to supply MPEG-4 hardware decoding.
Due to the metal construction of the Zodiac, the device was seen to be more solid than other PDAs. However, on some models the adhesive on the shoulder buttons failed, and occasionally the screen was scratched by the screen cover when grit entered. Furthermore, due to the insecure clip holding the stylus, they could be knocked loose and potentially lost. Some alternative cases solved this problem with their own stylus holder.
The Zodiac is a Palm OS 5-compatible device, and most software compatible with Palm OS 5 runs without issue. In particular, most Palm OS 5-compatible games play on the Zodiac. Tapwave also provided proprietary APIs to allow developers to take advantage of the Zodiac's graphics and sound hardware. A great deal of freeware and shareware games and emulators are therefore available. For example, there are versions of Doom, Quake, Hexen, Hexen II, and Heretic as well as versions of emulators such as UAE, ScummVM, and LJZ/LJP, a multi-system emulator. There have also been attempts to emulate PlayStation games onto the Zodiac, the most successful emulator being PPSX. It is, however, nowhere near completion and many games are not playable yet.
The device has a total battery life of about 3 hours when using video, backlight+screen and CPU-intensive tasks, and while running as a dedicated audio player it is closer to 6 hours. The original battery was a 1500mAh Li-Ion; third party replacements with 2000mAh capacity are still available from some manufacturers.
The Zodiac used a modified version of the Palm OS, designated version 5.2T. The main navigation menus consisted of 8 radially-arranged choices selected using either the touchscreen or thumbstick. It also came with the Palm OS Productivity Suite (containing a calendar, to do list etc.), an eBook reader, the Wordsmith word processor and the powerOne graphing application. It came bundled with two games, AcidSolitare (by Red Mercury) and Stunt Car Extreme (by Vasara Games).
The Zodiac console was initially available in two models, Zodiac 1 (32MB), and Zodiac 2 (128MB). The Zodiac 2 was $100 more expensive than the original Zodiac.
Games which utilized some or all of the Zodiac's hardware/software are incompatible with standard Palm OS devices. This does exclude platforms outside of Palm OS (e.g., Doom II is also out for PC, but the Zodiac version listed here won't run on standard Palm OS handhelds). This list also excludes standard Palm OS games which are also available for Zodiac handhelds, which were either identical or slightly improved on Zodiac, called "Zodiac tuned" (e.g. a game available for standard Palm OS only has the extra features of vibration and shoulder buttons as extra usable buttons when played on Zodiac).
Some of the games were never released due to the discontinuation of the Zodiac in July 2005. However, the testing builds of some of these games were leaked and are playable.
Zodiac exclusive titles
Zodiac exclusive titles, also available on SD card
"Zodiac tuned" titles
Unreleased but leaked games
Several homebrew (freeware) games were released on ports.
Two versions of the Zodiac are available, differing only in the amount of memory and case colour.